Testudo Times has spent all season corresponding with opposing football teams' beat writers and SB Nation staffers. This is the final Q&A in that installment, a back-and-forth with Akula Wolf of Backing the Pack, SBN's N.C. State Wolfpack site.
TT: N.C. State finds itself playing an utterly meaningless finale this Saturday. What went wrong?
BTP: You could say it started when Brandon Mitchell broke his foot in the opener, which kept him out for more than a month and deprived him of reps he desperately needed. I'm not sure NC State is much better off right now if that injury never happens, but it definitely proved costly.
The Wolfpack has been in position to win some games in the fourth quarter by making plays, and the guys simply haven't been able to do it. That's the difference between a team fighting for bowl eligibility and what we have now. A lot of it gets back to the quarterback play, which as you note below, has been less than stellar. We've missed some potentially game-changing throws--throws that, say, a Mike Glennon hits more often than not.
TT: What's your general feeling on the future of the program? Have you already given up on first-year coach Dave Doeren?
BTP: I think all of us figured this year would be difficult--maybe not THIS difficult, but still, pretty tough, even with the advantageous schedule. One of Doeren's primary tasks is to improve recruiting, and he's doing that. I don't know what the staff's ceiling is in that department, but at least it'll be higher than Tom O'Brien's.
There have been a few alarming things about the way Doeren has managed some games and situations that make me worry, beyond just the standard bullcrap that all coaches do, like punt from the other team's 37 or something. It's a young staff in general. Just gotta keep reminding myself its year one.
TT: Could you describe Doeren's system?
BTP: I can tell you what the staff wants it to be--some sort of Wisconsin/Oregon hybrid. (Hey, quit laughing.) State is running a lot of pistol now, and there's a greater emphasis on running the football (or trying to, anyway). Not much of anything has worked. Brandon Mitchell's mobility opens up a few things, but his inability to hit the broad side of a barn limits us in other ways. Pete Thomas is a bit more effective throwing but lacks that running ability.
And honestly, we're just lacking playmakers across the board. When Bryan Underwood went down for the year, we lost our home run hitter at receiver. The running backs are mediocre. The offensive line, well...
TT: Mike Glennon was a pretty good college quarterback. This year, Wolfpack quarterbacks have collectively been (shall we say?) less good (12:15 TD:INT ratio, among other bad numbers). Who will the Terps see Saturday, and what's the long-term plan at the position.
BTP: The staff shuffled Mitchell and Thomas a bit earlier in the year, but they stuck with Mitchell for the whole game last week, and I'm guessing that'll be the case on Saturday. He did respond with his best passing performance of the year, though that was due in large part to some garbage-time stat padding.
Mitchell graduates after this year, while Thomas has a season left. NC State has one quarterback commitment for 2014, but the job is expected to be handed to Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett.
TT: Against Boston College, Maryland became the latest team to be gashed for 200+ yards by Andre Williams. Will the Wolfpack running game present problems for the Terps?
BTP: No, probably not. At least not to a degree that will decisively turn the game in State's favor. Shad Thornton and Matt Dayes are decent running backs, but they need more help than they've gotten from this offensive line.
TT: Maryland's dealt with an injury-depleted secondary all season. Are any of the Wolfpack's receivers candidates for a particularly big game, in your opinion?
BTP: If anybody has a big game, it'll probably be Rashard Smith, who had 15 receptions over the last two games. Quintin Payton could get loose for a big play or two, but beyond those guys, it's anybody's guess. As I mentioned, Underwood is out, and beyond him, we've got a pair of true freshmen who've shown some flashes but have hardly been consistent. (Which is not entirely their fault, to be fair.)
TT: Last, your score prediction?
BTP: Give me, oh, let's say ... Maryland 31, NC State 17.